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Greenfield transportation worker concerned about working conditions after contracting COVID-19

“I felt as if I was going to die"
Van driver Randy White outside of Oak Street Health in Irvington Plaza
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 21:19:21-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A central Indiana transportation worker is raising concerns about working conditions after he contracted COVID-19.

Randy White, of Greenfield, said more needs to be done to protect van and bus drivers like himself.

In August, White took a job as a van driver for Health Park Hospitality, which contracts with Oak Street Health, a health care provider with clinics in central Indiana, including Irvington Plaza.

“I needed to supplement my income because I was a truck driver for 27 years and I was injured on the job," White said.

White picked up Oak Street Health clinic patients from their apartments and nursing homes, drove them to the clinic, and then back home.

"At the time we were wearing cloth masks, there was no plastic barrier provider in the van,” White said.

White said he was given no eye protection, face shields, and very few things to disinfect his van.

“The only thing they provided was alcohol in a spray bottle,” White said. “There was no Clorox wipes or Lysol."

White believes he contracted COVID-19 from a clinic patient he picked up.

"I had no eye protection whatsoever, and she's coughing, and it's a horrible cough,” White said. “She did not have a mask on and she told me, 'I told the clinic I think I have the coronavirus.' I said ‘I beg your pardon?’"

White said no one at the clinic warned him about the patient, and at the time, he was not allowed to ask pick-ups about potential COVID-19 symptoms.

"We were not allowed to, they said it was a privacy issue," White said.

White said he felt sick within days of picking up a coughing patient, and his September 24 test came back positive for COVID-19.

"I was the sickest that I've been in my whole adult life,” White said. “I felt as if I was going to die. I felt I could not breathe."

When he finally returned to work weeks later, White said he spent $40 of his own money to buy cleaning materials for his van.

But White said his managers treated him like an outcast.

"When I came back, that's when all the discrimination began,” White said. “They were no longer friendly. They were like stand back, don't approach us. "

White quit his job as a van driver on December 30.

"They could have done more to keep me safe," White said.

White said they didn’t add plastic partitions or start screening patients for symptoms at pick-up until after White got sick with COVID-19.

“Maybe by you shining a light on this will bring some needed attention,” White said. “If it will help the drivers that are still there to promote them to be more proactive to help those guys because they are still frontline workers."

WRTV reached out to Oak Street Health and contractor Health Park Hospitality.

Oak Street Health provided the following statement:

"Mr. White is employed by a contractor that provides our drivers. As such, and in accordance with Oak Street Health’s internal policies around confidentiality of employment matters, we can not comment on anything related to his employment.

We have investigated the claims regarding COVID-19 procedures and have found no evidence of material deviations from our COVID-19 policies and protocols, which are consistent with guidance from relevant federal and state health authorities and with the recommendations of the medical community.

These COVID-19 policies and protocols include an extensive standard operating procedure for transportation-focused on safety. This encompasses, but is not limited to: cleaning protocol, driver personal protective equipment (PPE) protocol, and a thorough notification process for any suspected infections or exposures.

In addition, Oak Street Health performs daily COVID-19 symptom screens on all patients, staff, and contractors."

Contractor Health Park Hospitality provided the following statement:

"The health and safety of our employees and the people they serve is our priority. We are focused on measures that will allow our employees to continue to work in the safest environment while also providing people the important service of safe and reliable access to healthcare.

To avoid the spread of the virus we have ensured that our employees are provided with appropriate PPE including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. We have implemented thorough safety protocols including procedures for sanitizing vehicles after each single transport keeping anyone who uses our service as safe as possible. Most recently we have also installed barriers in vehicles dividing the passenger row seating from the driver's row.

We will continue to assess the situation and make any needed adjustments or procedures that can responsibly minimize risk while continuing to provide such a vital service in the community. Our goal is always to keep our employees and our customers safe and healthy."